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36th Niwano Peace Prize to be Awarded to Dr. John Paul Lederach

Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame

The 36th Niwano Peace Prize will be awarded to Dr. John Paul Lederach, Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a Distinguished Scholar at Eastern Mennonite University in the United States where he served as the founding director of their Center for Peacebuilding and Justice. Currently, he serves as Senior Fellow at Humanity United, a philanthropic foundation. Dr. Lederach has worked in mediating conflicts, building peace, and fostering international reconciliation for more than thirty years. He has developed training in conflict transformation and provided direct conciliation support services in some of the most violently conflicted regions across five continents.

The presentation ceremony will take place in Tokyo, Japan, on May 18, 2019. To avoid undue emphasis on any particular religion or region, every year the Peace Foundation solicits nominations from people of recognized intellectual and religious stature around the world. In the nomination process, some 600 people and organizations, representing 125 countries and many religions, are asked to propose candidates. Nominations are rigorously screened by the Niwano Peace Prize International Selection Committee, which was set up in May of 2003 on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Niwano Peace Prize. The Committee presently consists of ten religious leaders from various parts of the world, all of whom are involved in movements for peace and inter-religious cooperation.

The Niwano Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to inter-religious cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace, and to make their achievements known as widely as possible. The Foundation hopes in this way both to enhance inter-religious understanding and cooperation and to encourage the emergence of still more persons devoted to working for world peace.

The Prize is named in honor of the founder and first president of the lay Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai, Nikkyo Niwano. For Niwano, peace was not merely an absence of conflict among nations, but a dynamic harmony in the inner lives of people as well as in our communities, nations and the world. Seeing peace as the goal of Buddhism, Niwano devoted much of the latter half of his life to promoting world peace, especially through inter-religious discussion and cooperation.

Dr. Lederach was born in Indiana and grew up in Oregon.  His parents worked as teachers, his father initially a pastor and his mother a nurse, both with a strong emphasis on holistic caregiving that influenced his life.  He graduated from Bethel College in 1980 with a degree in History and Peace Studies after giving numerous years to voluntary service in Europe, in both Belgium and Spain.  He then pursued a Ph.D. in Sociology with a concentration in the Social Conflict Program from the University of Colorado, receiving his degree in 1988. From the early 1980’s he began to actively engage in international peacebuilding and served as the director of the International Conciliation Service of The Mennonite Central Committee.

Dr. Lederach is the author, co-author, and editor of 24 books and manuals, numerous academic articles and monographs on peace education, conflict transformation, and mediation training. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he is in international demand as a lecturer, consultant, and peacebuilding trainer. He is a recipient of many awards and valuable recognitions from the academic communities and civic organizations and associations as well.

Dr. Lederach comes from Mennonite faith tradition born in the protestant reformation.  One of the historic peace churches, this tradtion places particular emphasis on the biblical command for Christians to be peacemakers.  Mennonites have long developed a commitment to service to alleviate human suffering and encourage development and can be often be found with humanitarian engagement and peace promotion in areas of war and conflict in the world.  As Dr. Lederach was entering adulthood, new countries were being born out of colonialism, at times through revolution. His peacebuilding has taken him to many of those places in search of what one of his book titles calls the journey toward reconciliation.  In this particular book, he outlines some of the theological underpinnings to that guide his work including the view that conflict is natural to human relationships but the real challenge of peace is always found in how to choose to respond with love, dignity, and accountability to those conflicts.  In a later book, he referred to this as the moral imagination that is capable of envisioning the web of relationships that includes our enemies and the curiosity and creativity that builds toward understanding, restoration and healing.  From this view, Dr. Lederach suggests that reconciliation is only possible through people who risk to journey across our deep social divides. In other words, through people who reach across the lines of hostility, a new relationship between enemies become possible.  Reconciliation requires commitment to craft the social space that brings truth, mercy, justice and peace together within conflicted groups.   This is the beauty of Dr. Lederach’s lifelong conviction and his commitment to live in a way that makes known the reconciling love of God within human brokenness through peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and reconciliation.

 

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